Personal injury basics: Whiplash and other soft tissue injuries

Here in Louisiana and nationwide, car accidents are a leading cause of injuries among adults and children alike. Along with broken bones and concussions, some of the most frequent injuries resulting from car accidents are soft tissue injuries.

What is a soft tissue injury?

A soft tissue injury is an injury affecting the muscles, tendons or ligaments. Common examples of soft tissue injuries include:

  • Sprains: Overextension of the ligaments that hold together a joint
  • Strains: Stretching or tearing of muscles and tendons
  • Contusions: Bruising of muscle, skin and other tissues

Whiplash is a general term used to describe the soft tissue injuries to the head, neck and back that can occur when the head is moved forcefully back and forth in a whipping motion. Injuries of this nature are sometimes described in more technical terms as hyperextension, cervical sprain and cervical strain injuries.

Many whiplash injuries occur in car accidents when a sudden swerve, stop or impact causes the head to jerk quickly back and forth. However, whiplash can also happen in other settings where the head is subjected to similar whipping motions, such as amusement park rides, athletic injuries, and slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents.

Symptoms may take time to develop

A common misconception about whiplash and other soft tissue injuries is that they only occur in accidents involving high speeds, but this is not the case. Because the tissues of head, neck and shoulders are quite delicate, they can be seriously injured even when the force of impact involved in a crash is relatively low.

Another thing to understand about soft tissue injuries, and whiplash in particular, is that it often takes time to develop symptoms, and the injuries are not always detectable right away. Common symptoms of soft tissue injuries include:

  • Pain
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration

Because these and other symptoms of soft tissue injuries are not always evident in the immediate aftermath of a crash, people who are involved in car accidents may mistakenly believe themselves to be uninjured, only to develop pain and other symptoms in the days, weeks and months after the accident. By the time they realize the extent of their injuries, however, they may have already missed their chance to obtain fair compensation for the harm they have suffered.

Beware of offers from insurance companies after a crash

Accepting an insurance settlement offer too quickly after being involved in a car accident can have the effect of forfeiting any legal claim for further compensation if your injuries later turn out to be more severe than you originally realized. In order to preserve your right to seek maximum compensation through the civil legal system, it is a good idea to talk your situation over with an experienced personal injury lawyer before discussing the crash with an insurance company or accepting an offer of payment. For more information about your legal rights and options after a crash in Louisiana, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Townsley Law Firm.